TACPs go back to basics in skills training exercise

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy
  • 147th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

It looked as if he was walking through the trees in the thick Texas woods.


The branches gave when he marched through them as if they weren't there.


He broke the ones that resisted.


The land navigation exercise was just one part of a weeklong skills training that Tactical Air Control Party members from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based at Ellington Field in Houston, performed April 1-6, 2014, at Camp Swift.


The TACPs were dropped off in a remote area of the base, just off the sides of dirt roads, equipped with a compass, a map, their packs and instructions to navigate to their next point.


These types of exercises are not what many would typically think a member of the Air Force would do, but these airmen are not typical airmen.


As TACPs, these men are where the blue meets the green, as they support Army units, bringing their expertise on aircraft and weapons systems to the fight by having the ability to control aircraft and call in close air support attacks from the ground.


"This is the Army side of the job," said Lt. Col. Nigel Atkins, commander of the squadron.


In order to accurately relay those targets to aircraft and support the Army units on the ground, the members have to be able to navigate to the location, Atkins added.


Training leaders dispersed the teams of two among the five points they were required to locate.


As he led his team from Point A to Point B, the TACP blazed the trail through the brush, breaking down any obstructions that can inhibit him and his team from moving forward.


They trekked through the diverse terrain - weeds, trees, thorns, creeks, and rocks - and made their way, counting their paces and studying the needles on their compasses as it teetered between degrees.


As the sun started to sink toward the horizon, they knew they were losing daylight and would soon have to employ their night vision capabilities.


"Eight hundred meters," a voice boomed from behind a few trees. It was his partner in the rear calling out the approximate distance traveled to gauge how far they are from their destination.


Although they possess the technology that can locate their point and guide them to it, learning the basics and having the ability to find their way with a map and compass is an invaluable skill for these battlefield airmen.


In addition to land navigation exercises, the airmen performed day and night firearms qualification, with all members rating as experts on the M9, as well as night vehicle operations that included reaction to contact, indirect fire, direct fire, and improvised explosive device, or IED, training.


Most of the training applied to expeditionary skills needed when in a deployed environment, however, that did not exclude the classroom training necessary to build a foundation on the knowledge required to execute the duties and responsibilities of a TACP or joint terminal attack controller, a specialty attained by many of the squadron's TACPs.


Due to the nature of their jobs and with most members being traditional guardsmen who drill two days each month, it can be difficult to maintain their proficiency in this mentally and physically demanding career field, so skills training such as this proves to be beneficial to the airmen, as they satisfied the qualifications required as part of the career field.


The 147th ASOS is a Texas Air National Guard unit. For more information on the squadron or being a TACP at Ellington Field, call 832-632-1387 or 800-864-6264.